Over the course of the past four years, the Trump administration has enacted corrupt and harmful policies across environmental, immigration, economic, and many other issues for special interests, many with close ties to the Trump administration, that will negatively impact generations of Americans. To help reverse the damage done, we’re tracking key policies that the next administration must urgently seek to overturn.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) issued a rule to update regulations related to air quality for oil, gas, and sulfur operations on the Outer Continental Shelf. The new rule makes BOEM the main enforcer for air quality regulation. The bureau is limited in its ability to regulate air pollution (especially compared to other agencies like the EPA) and are only able to regulate certain pollutions that “significantly affect” air quality.
Oil and gas companies opposed the Obama-era proposal for stronger air quality enforcement. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt has myriad connections to extractive industries with offshore companies and the National Ocean Industry Association (NOIA), which bragged about regular meetings with BOEM over the 2020 rule.
Rather than update the 1980s rule to reflect modern climate concerns, BOEM’s rule opted in favor of extractive industries to continue polluting our waters and air.
Under the Biden administration, the Interior Department and BOEM should reverse this rule and consider adding additional regulations and restrictions on facility locations.
Donald Trump’s Interior Department has fought to open Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil and gas drilling. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt signed a Record of Decision approving leasing in August 2020. A lease sale is expected before President Elect Joe Biden’s inauguration.
In addition to Big Oil, opening ANWR to oil development stands to benefit the Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, an influential Alaska Regional Corporation whose former executive, Tara Sweeney, is a high-ranking official in Donald Trump’s Interior Department.
Oil development in Alaska’s ANWR could have serious implications for Alaska’s climate and could disturb Alaska’s caribou herds, which the Gwich’in people rely on for subsistence.
The Biden Administration should halt any lease sales or oil production in ANWR and restore its protections.
The Trump Administration approved a long-stalled, controversial water project in North Dakota that would divert water from the Missouri River into the state’s Red River Valley. The project could have negative environmental effects in North Dakota and the Hudson Bay Drainage.
Once thought dead, the project was given new life when David Bernhardt was appointed at Interior. Bernhardt had been a lobbyist for the project for years, and even continued working for them after joining the DOI Transition Team.
The Biden Administration should look into reversing any approvals granted to the Garrison Diversion Water Conservancy and consider opening an ethics investigation into David Bernhardt.
Trump’s Bureau of Reclamation issued a favorable biological opinion that allowed the Westlands Water District to divert water from the San Francisco Bay Delta to irrigate its members’ farmland in California, weakening protections for the endangered delta smelt and winter-run chinook salmon.
The biological decision was is a giveaway to David Bernhardt’s former lobbying client, Westland Water District, a powerful entity representing wealthy farmers.
This allowed for a change in the flow regime which will harm the Sacramento River and put key species like the winter-run chinook salmon and delta smelt at risk.
The Biden Administration should nullify the faulty and potentially corrupt biological opinion and pursue new policies to address the effects on salmon habitat downstream, the delta smelt, and other issues not addressed in the 2019 biological opinion.
EPA proposed a rule to strip away financial responsibility requirements for the chemical manufacturing industry.
The proposal was supported by American Chemistry Council. A number of employees of Trump’s EPA previously worked for American Chemistry Council, including Nancy Beck, Deputy Administrator of Chemical Safety, Patrick Taylor, Deputy Administrator, and Liz Bowman of Public Affairs. American Chemistry Council lobbied the federal government to the tune of $34,490,00 during the Trump Administration, including lobbying agencies such as EPA.
Sierra Club’s Jane Williams said the EPA’s proposal paved the way for industry to continue abandoning polluted sites, calling it a “wealth transfer from the polluted to the polluter.”
As the EPA is under court order to issue the final rule by December 2, 2020, the Biden Administration should direct the EPA to issue a rule counteracting this rulemaking and reintroduce the financial responsibility requirements for the chemical manufacturing industry.
EPA proposed a rule establishing greenhouse gas emissions standards for airplanes that reflected current industry practices, meaning the standards would have little impact on the aviation sectors emissions.
The airlines industry was a major contributor to Donald Trump during his 2016 and 2020 presidential bids. Paul Elliot Singer, who was the second largest shareholder in Travelport, which handled systems for Delta, contributed $1 million to Trump’s inauguration. Airlines for America, which represents many high-profile airlines, spent over $25 million lobbying the federal government between 2017 and 2020.
The EPA rule would not introduce strict regulations on airline greenhouse gas emissions, which are responsible for accelerating climate change and exacerbating respiratory illness.
The Biden Administration should instruct EPA to implement emissions standards for the aviation sector that are aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions, as opposed to simply reflecting what the aviation sector is already doing.
The White House issued an executive order on June 19, 2018 eliminating offshore safety regulations that were passed after the Deepwater Horizon Disaster by the Obama administration. This order replaces the National Ocean Policy that highlighted how vulnerable our waters are to disaster with one that prioritizes “streamlining” policies for economic, security, and energy needs. It eliminates requirements to include indigenous groups in the decision-making process while bunting responsibility to states and abolishing regional planning bodies.
Energy trade organization National Ocean Industries association (NOIA) praised Trump actions, arguing the offshore industry “successfully operated” prior to the Deepwater Horizon-spurred regulations. NOIA is a former client of then-Deputy Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt.
The Deepwater Horizon Disaster was the worst marine oil spill in history. Repealing the regulations that emerged in the wake of the disaster exposes coastal communities to repeats of this tragedy so the Trump administration can make life easier for big oil companies.
The Biden administration should reinstate offshore drilling safety regulations reduced by this order and refocus attention to disaster prevention.
In 2019, the Environmental Protection Agency published a proposed rule that would delay the closure of unlined coal ash ponds, which store waste from coal-fire energy-generating facilities.
EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler previously lobbied for Xcel Energy, a member of the Utility Solid Waste Activities Group (USWAG), for three years — USWAG pushed for the rollback of unlined coal ash pond regulations. USWAG argued the deadlines to initiate closure were too short, with Excel Energy endorsing the group’s comments.
The Obama era rules governing coal ash pond closure came after a coal ash spill in 2008 dumped millions of cubic yards of toxic coal ash into nearby rivers. Coal ash is known to contain arsenic, lead, mercury, and other cancer-causing contaminants. Coal ash ponds also regularly contaminate ground water above federal safety standards.
The Biden Administration should direct the EPA to reintroduce coal ash regulations that were undone by Trump’s EPA, as it was expected the final rule will be published prior to January 20, 2021.
Donald Trump’s Interior Department has stripped protections for the sage grouse on 9 million acres across ten states after the Obama administration worked cooperatively to develop state-specific conversation plans. The bird is an indicator species for the health of sagebrush ecosystems.
Sage grouse habitat on public lands tends to coincide with land suitable for oil and gas leasing, and big oil has opposed efforts to protect the bird. Many of Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s former clients drill for oil in sage grouse habitat and have supported BLM’s efforts to remove protections.
The Biden Administration should stop defending new, reduced-protection sage grouse management plans and reinstate the 2015 state plans.
In June 2019, White House Council on Environmental Quality published draft guidance on the treatment of greenhouse gases under NEPA. The Draft Guidance came after previous instructions were withdrawn through Trump’s Executive Order “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth.
The 2019 draft guidance was “strikingly shorter” than the 2016 guidance – reducing the amount of guidance from CEQ by nearly 31 pages of discussion. Critics pointed out CEQ’s 2019 draft guidance provided little clarity to federal agencies on how to weigh GHG emissions and climate impacts in NEPA reviews and appeared to encourage agencies to avoid those considerations entirely.
State attorneys general from 18 states and Washington DC criticized the 2019 draft guidance and called for its withdrawal, noting that the guidance failed to address climate change and its impacts. Additionally, they state that NEPA does not permit, and the CEQ cannot direct, agencies “to ignore the well-documented impacts of climate change in their environmental impact analyses.”
The Biden administration should withdraw the 2019 guidance and replace it with more detailed and stringent guidance similar to the original 2016 guidance on treatment of greenhouse gases under NEPA.
EPA rolled back a 2015 rule to allow coal ash pond operating to delay closing ponds and seek more time to store toxic waste.
The Utility Solid Waste Activities Group (USWAG) supported the EPA’s planned changes. The rule change was implemented under EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s reign despite a potential conflict of interest over Wheeler’s past lobbying for USWAG members.
Reduced regulations and delays could allow utilities to dump more coal ash into ponds, further threatening nearby ecosystems and contaminating groundwater.
The Biden administration should strengthen standards and timelines for coal ash pond closures to reduce toxic waste emissions.
In July 2020, the EPA proposed a rule establishing procedural requirements for providing all information regarding the cost-benefit analysis of Clean Air Act regulatory decisions in a consistent and transparent manner.
A wide range of energy groups whose clients would benefit from slowed-down regulations like Western Energy Alliance and the Alliance of Mineral and Royalty Owners have issued favorable comments on the EPA’s cost-benefit rule. The American Road & Transportation Builders Association, Exelon Corporation, and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s former client Growth Energy have additionally lobbied in support of the rule.
The EPA’s proposed rule will make it more difficult to implement more Clean Air Act regulations, weakening the government’s ability to propose new guidelines to protect air quality.
The Biden administration should not move forward with finalizing this rule and reduce unnecessary barriers to additional Clean Air Act regulations.
Principal Deputy Assistant Administrator of EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, Anne Idsal’s office released proposals that would stop direct regulation of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. Idsal had promised to recuse herself from matters involving Valley Crossing Pipeline, which was completely owned by Enbridge.
Meanwhile, Enbridge has spent millions lobbying on methane reform while Idsal’s office was working on rules to stop directly regulating methane emissions from the oil and gas industry. Since 2019, Enbridge spent $2,970,000 lobbying the federal government on “issues related to methane emissions.”
Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas that is 100 times more potent at trapping energy than carbon dioxide. According to NASA, “after carbon dioxide, methane was responsible for about 23% of climate change in the 20th century.”
The Biden Administration should direct EPA to introduce new rules amending the New Source Performance Standards, reintroducing previous compliance requirements that were rescinded in the Trump EPA’s rules “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Review” and “Oil and Natural Gas Sector: Emission Standards for New, Reconstructed, and Modified Sources Reconsideration.”
Donald Trump’s Interior Department issued a solicitor’s opinion in December 2017 dramatically reinterpreting the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) to allow “incidental” taking or killing of migratory birds, eliminating any penalty associated with an accidental bird killing.
The policy change came at the behest of industry groups like the Western Energy Alliance. It was a big boost to Big Oil and other industries that often accidentally kill birds protected by the MBTA.
The Biden Administration should nullify the solicitor’s opinion and abandon any litigation defending the policy. It should also halt rulemaking intended to codify the policy.
Through executive orders, Donald Trump substantially reduced the acreage of two National Monuments in southern Utah, enacting the largest reductions of public lands protections in American History. One order reduced Bears Ears National Monument, created by President Barack Obama at the request of a coalition of Tribes, by 85 percent. Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument was cut roughly half.
The reductions were a major boon to industry, which has new access to develop in the acreage reduced from the monuments. A Canadian uranium mining company whose lobbyist Andrew Wheeler, Trump’s EPA Administrator stands to benefit. Wheeler lobbied on his client’s behalf to reduce Bears Ears. Both monuments could be subject to new oil and gas drilling, which would benefit the trade associations Interior Secretary Bernhardt has represented in private practice.
These alterations were made against the wishes of the tribal communities in Southern Utah who initially requested the protections for cultural and economic reasons.
The Biden Administration should overturn Trump’s executive orders and abandon any litigation to keep the reductions in place.
Despite Trump’s monuments reductions being actively disputed in in the courts, BLM and USFS approved new Resource Management Plans (RMPs) for the reduced monuments in Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears National Monuments.
The new plans prioritized energy development and would open the over 1,000 square miles cut from both monuments to new oil and gas drilling and coal mining.
This move seeks to codify Trump’s monument reductions before the courts can decide if the reductions are even legal and could pave the way to development in an archeologically rich, environmentally sensitive region that is sacred to local tribes.
The Biden Administration should throw out the RMPs and wait to develop new ones until the original boundaries of both monuments have been restored.
Trump’s EPA proposed revisions to lead and copper rules that would slow service line replacement, lowering the rate at which cities must replace lead service lines by more than half.
Companies that would be impacted by the regulations Sanexen Water, Flow-Liner Systems, and EnPess LLC praised the EPA’s proposal. While Sanexen Water and Flow-Liner Systems were busy lobbying the EPA, EnPress LLC’s CEO donated nearly $8,000 to Donald Trump.
By more than doubling the amount of time allotted to replace lead pipes in water systems, the EPA’s rule threatens communities’ water. Pipes that contain high levels of lead will be able to contaminate water supplies for even longer under the new regulation.
The Biden administration should raise the rate at which cities must replace lead service lines and prioritize replacing contaminated lead pipes.
In 2017, BLM rescinded a 2015 rule entitled “Oil and Gas; Hydraulic Fracturing on Federal and Indian Lands,” which required oil and gas operators to apply through the BLM before fracking on public lands managed by the BLM.
At the time of the rule, Interior was under the control of Secretary Ryan Zinke and Deputy Secretary David Bernhardt. and a history of giving his special interests special access to Interior. His second-in-command, David Bernhardt, formerly worked for extractive industry group IPAA, which applauded the removal of the 2015 rule.
Without federal regulation such as this rule, fracking companies are free to use and abuse lax state rules, further contributing to the climate crisis and destroying our natural resources.
The Biden Administration should reverse this rule through a new rulemaking.
In September 2020, Donald Trump’s BLM proposed a rule to backtrack on three Obama-era public lands oil and gas regulations that were intended to address problems in BLM’s public lands leasing programs identified by the Government Accountability Office.
Trump’s BLM attempted to roll back those regulations in response to “concerns” from “representatives of the oil and gas industry.” This rulemaking is just a parting gift to the oil industry after the industry lobbyists running Trump’s Interior spent four years bending over backwards to deregulate public lands leasing for their clients’ benefit.
The Biden Administration should not implement this rulemaking and should keep the 2016 regulations as-is.
The rolled back Obama-era regulations for blowout preventers, deferring to oil and gas companies to determine what safety standards works for extractive companies. This allows for “company-specific approaches,” repealing the requirement for real-time monitoring and storing of relevant data that could be provided to regulators.
The rule adopts the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) standard for blowout prevention equipment systems, pulling directly from the industry group’s bulletin. The American Energy Alliance also cheered as offshore energy producers shed regulations.
Under the Obama administrations, new standards were implemented for blowout preventers after they failed, causing the worst oil spill in US history that killed 11 people and devastated our wildlife and coasts. Instead of learning from the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, the BSEE under the Trump administration has rolled back efforts to keep oceans and workers safe from a repeat tragedy.
The BSEE under the Biden administration should reverse this rule and instead, strengthen safety regulations for offshore oil and gas operations.
In June 2020, the EPA proposed a rule that no additional measures are necessary to mitigate the adverse impact on air quality of renewable fuel volumes.
A range of oil and gas companies industry groups supported the EPA’s determination. At least twelve organizations that commented in support of the rule have ties to the Trump administration, including former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler.
The EPA used a flawed modeling system to comes to its conclusion for renewable fuel volumes, neglecting real world data. Accurate data helps the EPA combat factors that are harming air quality and contribute to climate change. Poor models hamstring the EPA’s ability to do its job while limiting the public’s ability to accurately respond.
The Biden administration should redo the EPA’s study with updated models and respond according to those results.
The EPA finalized a rule that removed the “once in, always in” standard that required hazardous air pollutant sources to remain “major sources” once they pass the ten tons of emissions threshold. Under the new rule, if sources reduce their hazardous air pollutant can reclassify as “area sources” and endure less stringent requirements.
The National Association of Manufactures supports the repeal of the “once in, always in” policy, spending nearly $18M lobbying against it since 2019. Furthering the Association’s goals was high-level EPA official Kelley Raymond, a former National Association of Manufacturing lobbyist that was tasked with finalizing the reclassification under the Trump Administration.
EPA’s rule change undermines the primary goal of the Clean Air Act and risk a large increase in pollutions. High hazardous air pollutants pose a risk to the environment and public health, the latter of which is notable given the rollback occurred during a respiratory disease pandemic.
The Biden administration should restore regulations for sources that were at any time considered “major sources.”
The Trump Administration sought to end an Obama-era moratorium on new coal leases on federal land. It came under litigation after conservation groups and the Northern Cheyenne Tribe sued, alleging BLM’s Environmental Assessment (EA) failed to consider the environmental impacts of new coal leases across the federal mineral estate.
Lifting the moratorium could be a big boost to the coal mining industry should coal prices recover and is part of a Trump campaign promise to “end the war on coal.”
But the long-term impacts of coal mining and power generation threaten environmental quality, the climate, and western public lands important to tribes like the Northern Cheyenne.
The Biden Administration should halt coal leasing and reinstate the Obama-era moratorium on new lease sales.
On November 6, 2020, the Trump administration removed climate scientist Michael Kuperberg from his leadership position as director of the US Global Change Research Program. Kuperberg was expected to oversee the upcoming National Climate Assessment for 2023.
According to insiders familiar with the removal, Kuperberg’s replacement was expected to be climate “skeptic” David Legates. Legates once described CO2 as “plant food” and “not a pollutant.” Legates has worked with climate change denial groups including the Heartland Institute.
The removal of Kuperberg was applauded by other climate skeptics such as Marc Morano who went on further to encourage the Trump administration to go on a “hiring bonanza of skeptical climate scientists to fill positions.” Trump himself rejected the 2018 National Climate Assessment, saying “I don’t believe it.”
The Biden administration should undo these changes by the Trump administration, and reinstate reputable climate scientists to the USGCRP to ensure the integrity of the 2023 National Climate Assessment.
On December 7, 2020, EPA announced its decision to retain NAAQS for fine and coarse particulate matter for the next five years.
State attorneys general critical of the decision commented PM2.5 is associated with 45,000 annual deaths. EPA’s own scientist recommended lowering the annual particulate matter standard, noting that reducing the limit to 9 micrograms per cubic meter could save between 9,050 and 34,600 lives per year.
Wheeler worked as a lobbyist for clients that stood to benefit from NAAQS for particulate matter not being tightened. Hhas consistently worked to implement rules that would benefit his former associates.
The Biden administration should direct EPA to tighten NAAQS for fine and coarse particulate matter.
The Trump Administration has tried to redefine the definition of habitat under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in a way that would ignore threats to species could change as impacts of climate change become more severe.
The rule change is a giveaway to industry because it would allow oil drilling and other development to occur at the expense of restoring habitat for protected species.
If enacted, long-term result of this rule would be to squeeze endangered species into smaller and smaller areas as climate change worsens, all for the benefit of extractive companies.
The Biden Administration should abandon this rulemaking.
The Environmental Protection Agency and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration issued final rules on behalf of the Department of Transportation to amend the vehicles fuel and carbon dioxide standards.
The changes were proposed by the Trump administration after a request from the auto industry. The rule also allows automakers to receive credits for investing in natural gas vehicles.
The Biden Administration should direct the EPA to issue a replacement rule that would recognize California’s authority to standards and pursue more stringent standards going forward from models 2026 and beyond.
In May 2019, the Trump administration’s BLM formally renewed mineral exploration leases for Twin Metals, a Chilean company which was aiming to build a nickel-copper mine around the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness.
Critics expressed concern that acidic runoff from mining would “spoil the pristine lakes and rivers in the area.” And that it is “all but guaranteed that Acid Mine Drainage from these mines will contaminate the groundwater and seep into surrounding lakes and streams.”
The Biden administration should exercise any option to halt the development of the Twin Metals mine and prevent any attempt at mineral extraction around the BWCAW.
In June 2020, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), in conjunction with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), finalized a rule affirming the “valid when made” doctrine concerning loans originated by chartered banks and then transferred to a non-bank lender.
Consumer advocates, including the Center for Responsible Lending and the National Consumer Law Center, criticized this move as allowing payday lenders to avoid state interest rate caps and outright bans on short- term loans by “funneling” their loans through chartered banks that are exempted from such caps.
These “rent-a-bank schemes” are already being used by payday lenders across the country, with lenders using state-chartered banks to avoid state interest caps in Minnesota, Montana, And Oregon. Other lenders, including Enova International, Elevate Credit, and Curo Group Holdings, indicated they would use similar arrangements to avoid a California state interest cap signed into law in October 2019. Companies who have, or have planned to, use rent-a-bank schemes to avoid state interest rate caps have donated nearly $36,000 in campaign contributions to members of the House Financial Services Committee, while the payday industry in general has donated nearly $670,000 to these members.
The Biden Administration should direct the FDIC and the OCC to pass new rulemaking explicitly refuting the “valid when made” doctrine while working to pass legislation establishing a federal interest rate cap of 36%, the same protections offered to military servicemembers in the Military Lending Act. The Biden Administration should also direct FDIC and DOJ attorneys to stop defending this rule against the joint lawsuit filed by several state AGs seeking its repeal.
In August 2019, CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger hired a former student loan servicing executive, Robert Cameron to be the Bureau’s private education loan ombudsman, despite his former agency being accused of “derailing hundreds of public-sector workers from receiving student loan forgiveness.”
Cameron previously served as the Deputy Chief Counsel and Vice President of Enterprise Compliance for the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA). FedLoan, an “arm” of PHEAA, is the only student loan servicer authorized to handle the loans of borrowers seeking Public Service Loan Forgiveness.
In 2017, the Washington Post reported the CFPB found FedLoan had “derailed hundreds of public-sector workers from receiving student loan forgiveness.” In September 2018, PHEAA faced at least ten class action lawsuits alleging it had failed to properly assess payments, saddling borrowers with additional debt.
Because the private education loan ombudsman appears to be a career position as opposed to a political appointment, the Biden administration should instruct the CFPB under new leadership to prioritize candidates with backgrounds in advocacy and consume protection work for this, and other, career positions and political appointments.
In January 2020, the CFPB issued a policy statement outlining changes to its application of the “‘abusiveness’ standard in supervision and enforcement matters.” Under these changes, the CFPB began only focusing on abusive conduct when the “harm to consumers outweighs the benefit,” while no longer applying abusive acts to violations that were also unfair or deceptive. The Bureau also stopped seeking monetary relief when there had been a “good-faith effort to comply with the law” but continued to seek restitution to harmed consumers.
Consumer advocates heavily criticized the CFPB’s decision as abdicating its duty to enforce abusive acts or practices as legislated by the landmark Dodd-Frank Act. The National Consumer Law Center equated the CFPB’s decision as “‘taking an arrow out of its quiver,'” while Americans For Financial Reform Described The move as “‘deeply disturbing.'”
Trump-CFPB Directors have long attacked the Bureau’s supervision and enforcement of abusive acts and practices. In 2016, then-Congressman Mick Mulvaney, the future Acting CFPB Director, co-sponsored H.R. 5112, the Unfair or Deceptive Acts or Practices Uniformity Act, which would have repealed the CFPB’s authority to regulate abusive acts or practices. Mick Mulvaney was one of only 5 members of congress to co- sponsor this legislation.
Under the Obama administration, the CFPB frequently cited abusive acts or practices in enforcement actions against bad actors. In September 2015, the CFPB filed a consent order against Encore Capital Group, Inc., Midland Funding, LLC, Midland Credit Management, Inc. and Asset Acceptance Capital Corp. partly due to abusive practices including, “harass[ing], oppress[ing], or abus[ing] any person in connection with the collection of a debt.” In March 2015, the CFPB filed a complaint against Universal Debt Payment Solutions, LLC, Universal Debt Solutions, LLC, WNY Account Solutions, LLC and others partly due to oppressive and abusive conduct in telephone communications.
The Biden administration should direct the CFPB under new leadership to immediately rescind this policy statement and return to enforcing and supervising regulated business for violations of the abusiveness standard as Dodd-Frank mandated.
In January 2020, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) announced the members of the newly created Taskforce on Federal Consumer Financial Law, charged with examining the “existing legal and regulatory environment facing consumers and financial services providers” and then issuing a report to recommend potential Bureau-wide changes to CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger.
Members of this taskforce ran the gamut of industry insiders, including longtime critics of the CFPB, high- powered attorneys that had defended major businesses against CFPB investigations, and general skeptics of consumer financial regulations. The taskforce’s chair, Todd Zywicki, has frequently criticized the CFPB and its work, even going as far calling the Bureau a “‘tragic’ failure” and suggesting it shouldn’t take part in any enforcement work whatsoever despite having returned billions to harmed consumers.
Other members of the taskforce include law firm partners, L. Jean Noonan and William MacLeod. L. Jean Noon has represented firms in “government investigations, examinations, and enforcement actions before federal agencies, including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau,” while William MacLeod represented Office Depot during a $25 million settlement with the FTC after it allegedly “conned customers into paying millions to resolve malware problems that often didn’t exist.”
While the taskforce’s report may be sent to Director Kraninger before the inauguration, the Biden administration should direct the CFPB under new leadership to ignore its recommendations. The Biden administration should also direct the CFPB to create a new taskforce consisting of consumer advocates to create recommendations that strengthen the work of the Bureau in protecting consumers instead of predatory businesses and industries.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) proposed a new rule allowing debt collectors to send an unlimited number of texts and emails to consumers, while setting a limit of seven telephone calls per week per debt.
Tom Pahl was the CFPB’s Policy Associate Director for Research, Markets, and Regulations, a political position created by then-Acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney as he prioritized loosening regulations on debt collection. Pahl, an industry insider who represented debt collectors and credit reporting agencies, has railed against CFPB regulations on debt collectors. Debt collection industry trade groups have spent over $2.1 million on federal lobbying since Donald Trump took office while donating over $400,000 in political contributions. Tom Pahl currently serves as the CFPB’s Deputy Director.
The CFPB’s Debt Collection rule allows debt collectors to harass consumers during a pandemic, with Consumer advocates stating it leaves people of color particularly vulnerable to endless debt collection communications.
The Biden Administration should direct the CFPB under new leadership to immediately begin working on a new debt collection rule mandating stringent prohibitions on excessive electronic communications, including limiting the number of texts and emails that can be sent to consumers.
In November 2017, former CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney implemented a hiring freeze at the CFPB that was in place for nearly 2 years before being lifted by his successor, Kathy Kraninger. In March 2019, it was reported the number of CFPB employees had dropped 15% from its peak in June 2017.
This hiring freeze had a devastating impact on the Bureau’s staffing numbers, and by extension, its enforcement activities. In March 2019, a Consumer Federation of America report found that under Trump appointees, CFPB enforcement actions had declined 80-percent since 2015, the Bureau’s peak productivity.
The vacancies within the Bureau’s Supervision, Enforcement & Fair Lending Division (SEFL) – tasked with enforcing consumer protection laws – are particularly concerning as the Bureau received record numbers of consumer complaints amid the COVID-19 pandemic. As of May 13, 2020, the CFPB had 78 vacancies among all the regions of the SEFL division. In April 2020, the CFPB received 42,774 consumer complaints, a 15- percent increase from March and the “highest monthly tally since the complaint database was launched in 2011.” Since the COVID-19 was declared a national emergency on March 13, 2020, the Midwest supervision region of the SEFL division, the region with the most vacancies, has received over 37,000 complaints.
Even areas Kraninger herself has described as crucial to the Bureau’s work had large numbers of vacancies. As of May 2020, the CFPB’s Consumer Education & Engagement Division, whose efforts Kraninger said were “essential to preventing consumer harm and building financial well-being,” had 18 vacancies. At the time these vacancies included Assistant Director of the Office of Older Americans, which has just recently been filled in late November 2020.
The Biden administration should direct the CFPB under new leadership to implement a major hiring push in order to not only fill all vacancies at the Bureau but expand staffing to record levels in order to ensure consumer laws are vigorously enforced.
In August 2017, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos terminated two Memoranda of Understandings (MOUs) with the CFPB outlining the sharing of student loan data and the coordination of enforcement actions.
This move was largely seen as beneficial to the student loan industry, with at least one financial analyst upgrading major student loan servicer Navient to a “buy” rating. This led to Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Representative Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) requesting that SEC Chair Jay Clayton investigate potential insider trading of Navient stock.
In April 2019, CFPB Kathy Kraninger stated in a letter to Senator Warren that the Education Department was getting in the way of efforts to police the student loan industry, as student loan servicers had started to decline information requests from the Bureau, citing Education Department guidance.
The student loan industry, including student loan servicers, have spent millions on political contributions and lobbying the federal government on education policy. Since Donald Trump took office, student loan servicers and student loan trade groups have spent over $10.7 million and over $380,000 on federal lobbying, respectively. Since the 2012 election cycle, the student loan industry has also spent nearly $4.5 million on political contributions, including over $2.1 million to Republican political candidates.
In February 2020, the CFPB and Education Department agreed to a new MOU outlining the coordination of student loan complaint data – over two and a half years after the original MOUs were terminated. The Biden Administration should direct the CFPB and Education Department to sign a new MOU that strengthens and expands coordination between the agencies regarding student loan complaint data, enforcement, and supervision.
In March 2020, the CFPB, OCC, FDIC, NCUA, and Federal Reserve issued joint guidance encouraging financial institutions to begin offering “responsible” small-dollar loans to consumers and small business amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Senate Democrats heavily criticized the guidance as the CFPB using the pandemic as an opportunity to enrich corporate interests, including big banks, payday lenders, and debt collectors. Consumer advocates found the joint guidance’s “troubling language” as opening the door to potential predatory lending while the American public reels from the financial and health impact of COVID-19.
The Center for Responsible Lending and the National Consumer Law Center both called on banks to only issue small dollar loans that had APRs of 36% or less that were also underwritten with an “ability-to-repay” standard that ensured borrowers could afford their loans without neglecting “ongoing expenses and obligations.”
The Biden administration should direct these federal regulators, under new leadership when applicable, to either rescind this guidance, or modify it to place a strong emphasis on ensuring borrowers are protected by a 36% APR cap and an “ability-to-repay” standard.
The Consumer Financial Bureau folded its Office of Fair Lending & Equal Opportunity (OFLEO) into the Office of Equal Opportunity & Fairness (OEOF), a move that significantly neutered its ability to enforce fair lending laws as OEOF is largely a “personnel office” without enforcement power.
Eric Blankenstein, the former policy associate director for the CFPB’s Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity, was uncovered to have written racist blog posts questioning the legitimacy of hate crimes and the racial intent of people that use the n-word. As head of the office, Blankenstein was responsible for “supervising lenders and enforcing an array of consumer protection laws, including the four-decade-old Equal Credit Opportunity Act, landmark civil rights legislation aimed at protecting blacks and other minorities from discriminatory practices and promoting ‘fair lending.'”
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and consumer advocates warned the move would weaken the Fair Lending division, once considered a “powerful force” charged with enforcing Dodd-Frank’s discrimination protections.
The Biden Administration should direct the CFPB under new leadership to immediately revert this decision while empowering the office and the Bureau at large to aggressively enforce fair lending laws as intended by the Dodd-Frank Act.
In July 2018, then acting-CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney announced that Paul Watkins would lead the bureau’s new Office of Innovation. In this role, Watkins served as the primary contacts for the CFPB’s No-action letters and product sandbox. No-action letters make recipients “immune from enforcement actions by any federal or state authorities, as well as from lawsuits brought by private parties.”
Watkins has a long history with anti-LGBT efforts and organizations that made his leadership of the Office of Innovation particularly worrisome as it could potentially exempt companies from crucial anti-discrimination laws in the name of regulatory experimentation.
While in law school, Paul Watkins participated in legal fellowship ran by the Alliance Defending Freedom, an anti-LGBT hate group that has worked to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community.
At the Arizona Attorney’s General Office, his boss signed an amicus brief in support of Masterpiece Cakeshop, the business that wanted to discriminate against same-sex couples in the landmark Supreme Court case— which happened to be represented by Watkins’ former colleagues at Alliance Defending Freedom.
While Paul Watkins left the Bureau in August 2020 for the private sector, the Biden Administration should ensure that no action-letter is ever issued in a manner discriminatory to the LGBT community or any other community. The Biden Administration should also ensure that the eventual permanent head of the Office of Innovation (currently led by Acting Director Edward Blatnik), or any other CFPB employee, has no previous work experience or other past actions that would indicate any form of intolerance incompatible with the CFPB’s core mission of consumer protection.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB’s) Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans rule revoked the “mandatory underwriting” provisions of its 2017 payday rule which prevented lenders from providing payday and vehicle title balloon-payment loans without “reasonably determining that consumers have the ability to repay those loans according to their terms.” Under the CFPB’s new rules, these practices would no longer be considered “unfair and abusive.”
The Trump administration was courted heavily by the payday loan industry with the industry giving over $2.2 million to Trump’s inaugural and political committees. The payday loan industry spent nearly $6.5 million lobbying the federal government since Trump took office. One organization representing the payday loan industry even held their 2018 annual conference at Trump’s Doral Golf Resort in Florida.
Mike Hodges, the CEO of Advance Financial, a major payday lender, even bragged to fellow lenders that contributions to Trump’s reelection campaign “could be leveraged to gain access to The Trump administration.” Mike Hodge’s was so desperate for access to the Trump that his firm paid Mick Mulvaney’s former congressional chief of staff, Al Simpson, $350,000 to lobby on the “Office of the Administration” on the “CFPB Small dollar rule.”
The Payday Rule’s mandatory underwriting provisions were widely supported as they prevented predatory lenders from trapping consumers in debt. The payday industry attempted to counter this by submitting nearly 7,128 comments containing specific duplicative language in an apparent attempt to emulate widespread grassroots support.
The Biden Administration should reintroduce the provisions revoked by the Payday, Vehicle Title, and Certain High-Cost Installment Loans rule and require lenders to determine that consumers have the ability to repay payday loans prior to lending to them. The Biden Administration should also order CFPB and Department of Justice attorneys to cease defending the Bureau against litigation seeking to overturn the rule.
In February 2020, the CFPB announced it would address the collection of time-barred debt, also known as “zombie debt”, or debt past the statute of limitations for lawsuits. Under the CFPB’s proposal, debt collectors would be able to still continue attempts to collect debt it knows to be time-barred as long as they tell consumers that they can no longer be sued in order to collect.
As any payment made to zombie debt could reset this statute of limitations, predatory debt collectors have begun trying to trick consumers into making payments on old debts. Consumer advocates, including the National Consumer Law Center and Americans for Financial Reform, heavily criticized the CFPB’s proposal as a “‘watered'” down solution to the issue of time-barred debt. Americans for Financial Reform believes the CFPB should have instead issued a blanket ban on the collection of time-barred debt “in and out of court.”
The collection of time-barred debt is a major source of revenue for the debt-collection industry. According to a report issued by Receivables Management Association International, a debt collection trade group, the industry collects “‘tens of billions of dollars'” in time-barred zombie debt every year.
Unsurprisingly, the industry has lobbied the federal government, including the CFPB, heavily on issues related to debt collection. During the Trump administration, Receivables Management Association International has spent at least $800,000 on lobbying, while ACA International, another debt collection trade association, has spent over $2.3 million on lobbying.
The Biden administration should direct the CFPB under new leadership to immediately rescind this proposed rule before it’s finalized. The Biden administration should also direct the CFPB to begin new rulemaking completely banning the collection of time-barred debt regardless of any disclosures provided or payments made.
Under CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney and Director Kathy Kraninger, the CFPB ceased to vigorously enforce consumer laws as mandated by the Dodd-Frank law.
In 2018, it was reported the CFPB under Mulvaney had decreased public enforcement actions by 80% since its peak in 2015. Kraninger’s appointment as CFPB director continued this pattern with consumer restitution under her tenure falling to only $925,000 a week compared to $43 million under President Obama’s CFPB Director Richard Cordray.
After becoming acting-CFPB Director, Mick Mulvaney dropped an investigation into a payday lender that donated thousands to his congressional campaigns and trimmed off up to a $1 Million in fines levied by his predecessor.
The Biden Administration should direct the CFPB under new leadership to vigorously enforce consumer protection law, while seeking the maximum amount of restitution to harmed consumers as possible.
In August 2018, then-acting CFPB Director Mick Mulvaney announced the Bureau would no longer use supervisory examinations of lenders for violations of the Military Lending Act. Subsequent CFPB Director Kathy Kraninger maintained this viewpoint and refused to supervise lenders until receiving explicit legislative authority to do so.
Industry experts derided this move as abandoning servicemembers in favor of auto dealers and banks. Retired Army Colonel Paul Kantwill, the former Assistant Director for Servicemember Affairs at the Bureau, compared the move to “‘removing the sentries from the guard posts guarding your military installation or your compound.'” Christopher Peterson, a law professor at the University of Utah criticized the decision as “‘manipulating the military lending act regulations at the behest of auto dealers and banks to try and make it easier to sell overpriced rip-off products to military service members.'”
The Bureau’s rationale for the decision has also been heavily criticized with a group of Democratic members of the House Financial Services Committee saying ” there is no question” the Bureau CFPB has supervisory authority over regulated entities for compliance with the Military Lending Act. The CFPB under President Obama’s Director Richard Cordray frequently used supervisory examinations with no significant legal challenges, further weakening rationale.
The Biden Administration should direct the CFPB under new leadership to immediately begin supervising lenders for violations of the Military Lending Act, aggressively seeking restitution for military servicemembers harmed by unscrupulous lenders
In December 2019, DeVos’ Education Department announced it would base partial loan forgiveness on “how much a defrauded student’s ‘estimated earnings’ differed from those of students who attended similar programs.” This move was a departure from the Obama Administration which provided full relief to all borrowers who had been defrauded.
This policy was a boon for for-profit colleges – an industry that has spent over $1.5 million in political contributions since the 2018 election cycle – who could now return less money in loan forgiveness as many loans would only be partially forgiven.
DeVos was so determined to make these changes to the borrower defense rule that she ignored the recommendations of her own career staff who believed defrauded students should receive “no less than full relief from their student debts.” In June 2020, it was even reported that a Education Department whistleblower alleged the education department even rejected a proposed website or student loan borrowers as it made it “too easy” to receive loan forgiveness.
Efforts to repeal this rule through the Congressional Review Act were ultimately unsuccessful after the House failed to overturn Trump’s veto of a resolution passed in both chambers of Congress disapproving of it.
The Biden administration should direct the Department of Education under new leadership to immediately begin new rulemaking to revert the rule back to providing full relief as was the case under the Obama administration. The Biden administration should also direct the Education Department and DOJ to cease defending this action in court against the numerous lawsuits filed seeking its repeal.
The DeVos Education Department has worked tirelessly to deny public service employees, including teachers, nurses, and social workers, loan forgiveness under the Department’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. As of March 2020, the Education Department had only approved 3,174 out of 174,495 PSLF applications – a 98.2% denial rate. This critical program incentivizes individuals to remain in lower-paying, but crucial occupations, such as nursing – a particularly needed field due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since becoming Education Secretary, DeVos has worked to weaken and outright stop the PSLF program, with every Trump budget proposal including its elimination. In September 2019, the Government Accountability Office found that the Department had denied 99% of applications to a temporary expansion of the PSLF program due to a stipulation it created that “Congress didn’t order.”
James Manning, the Education Department official appointed by DeVos to oversee the Office of Federal Student Aid, gave little explanation for the Government Accountability Office’s criticism of these mass denials and “offered no timeline” for taking action on its recommendations to fix the program. After leaving the Education Department in 2019, Manning joined the Penn Hill Group, a lobbying firm that has been paid at least $320,000 by the National Council Of Higher Education Resources, a higher education finance trade association that includes “servicers and collection agencies with contracts with the U.S. Department Of Education.”
The Biden Administration should direct the Education Department under new leadership to immediately work to approve pending PSLF applications while revisiting the denial of past applications. The Biden Administration should also direct Education Department and Department of Justice attorneys to cease defending its actions against the PSLF program in lawsuits filed by state officials and advocate groups.
In February 2020, the Department of Education formally launched a pilot program to disburse financial student aid funds through federally branded payment cards at select universities. Consumer advocates feared this program could potentially leave students unable to access funds restricted by their universities, while their data was sold or used for marketing purposes.
Several Trump appointees that worked to implement this program have past experience within the card payment processing industry:
- Wayne Johnson, the former head of the Education Department’s Office of Strategy And Transformation who played a critical role in developing the prepaid card proposal, is the founder of First Performance Global, a card processing security start-up with investments from financial service giants such as Mastercard, Regions Financial Corp, RRE Ventures, and Synchrony Financial.
- Carlos Muñiz, the former Education Department General Counsel tasked with managing its ethics programs and clearing regulatory documents, previously consulted for NetSpend, a prepaid card company that agreed to a $53 million FTC settlement for deceiving customers in 2017.
- Patrick J. Fox, the current Portfolio Manager for the Education Department’s Federal Student Aid office, previously worked for TSYS, the parent company of NetSpend, whose subsidiary’s excessive card fees caused the CFPB to issue its 2016 prepaid card rule.
In May 2020, MetaBank, one of the companies selected to implement the pilot program, began disbursing Economic Impact Payments to millions of Americans as part of the CARES Act relief. In April 2020, MetaBank and Fiserv won the contracts to issue these cards after it and the industry group, NACHA, spent nearly $227,000 lobbying Congress and the Trump Treasury Department on issues related to the CARES Act and stimulus payments. MetaBank stood to make millions in banking fees from these prepaid debit cards.
The Biden Administration should direct the Education Department under new leadership to revisit this pilot program in order to ensure that participating vendors are not in a position to profit off the vulnerable student borrowers. The Biden Administration should also seek to ensure the Education Department is staffed with individuals that have shown a career dedication to student borrowers instead of the student loan industry and related financial service companies.
Betsy DeVos’ Education Department reinstated the federal recognition of the Accrediting Council For Independent Colleges And Schools (ACICS), a for-profit college accreditor that had lost recognition from the Obama administration for flouting “nearly 60 federal regulations” and “rubber-stamp[ing]” fraudulent for-profit schools that cheated students.
DeVos’ decision came after the recommendation of Principal Deputy Under Secretary Of Education Diane Auer Jones, who served as the chief lobbyist for Career Education Corporation, a for-profit college, for five years. Career Education Corporation itself has faced “near constant scrutiny from accreditors and law enforcement entities,” including the Senate, FTC, SEC, and 22 attorneys general for “misleading and deceptive recruiting tactics.”
DeVos appeared to be influenced by Steve Gunderson, described as the for-profit college industry’s “chief lobbyist,” who had started lobbying for this decision in the first weeks of DeVos’ time as Education Secretary. DeVos herself has also held investments in for-profit college companies included Laureate Education and Delta Educational Systems.
In June 2020, DeVos’ Education Department continued its protection of ACICS by delaying its evaluation before a “federal panel on college accreditation” until after the election in February 2021. This move was despite The Education Department opening two additional “inquiries into potential problems at ACICS” which were so severe that even DeVos said “she was personally disturbed by those reports.”
The Biden administration should direct the Education Department under new leadership to immediately rescind the federal recognition of ACICS until it has fully rehabilitated its accreditation practices. The next administration should also seek to staff the department with individuals that have worked to protect students instead of those who have lobbied on the behalf of predatory for-profit colleges. Lastly, the new leadership should order Education Department and DOJ lawyers to no longer defend against a class action lawsuit seeking loan forgiveness from schools accredited by ACICS.
The Trump administration rescinded an Obama-era rule to specify how higher education institutions should define “gainful employment” in order to ensure graduates could repay their loans with well-paying jobs. Under this rule, schools that had a typical graduate paying over “20 percent of his or her discretionary income or 8 percent of his or her total earnings” in annual loan payments were required to improve these figures or risk losing access to federal student loan dollars.
Advocates said the rule “worked to improve quality, lower cost and save taxpayer money.” The Education Department itself estimated the rules repeal would cost taxpayers an estimated $6.2 billion over ten years by continuing to flow federal money to for-profit colleges that failed to meet the rules standards for graduate loan figures.
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was personally invested in for-profit colleges that stood to potentially lose access to federal financial aid through the Obama rule, while also filling the department with former lobbyists and executives of the for-profit college industry:
- Robert Eitel, the Education Department’s Senior Counselor, worked for Bridgepoint Education, a for-profit educator that stood to profit from the repeal of the regulation, just before joining the department. Eitel was even still employed by the firm during his first two months at the Education Department.
- Dianne Auer Jones, the Education Department’s Principal Deputy Under Secretary, served as the chief lobbyists for Career Education Corporation, a for-profit educator, for 5 years before joining the Department. In 2011, Career Education Corporation settled a $40 million class action lawsuit for falsely claiming its job placement rate was 97%.
The Biden administration should direct the Education Department to reinstate the gainful employment rule to ensure that for-profit colleges are providing an education that allows a borrower to find well-paying jobs worth the debt incurred. They should also consider candidates for senior positions with backgrounds in student borrower advocacy work, as opposed to those who formerly worked to pad corporate bank accounts off the backs of struggling borrowers.
In June 2019, the Department of Homeland Security announced a new policy regarding the “expedited removal” of undocumented immigrants, in which individuals could be quickly deported before seeing a judge or obtaining legal representation if they were unable to prove they had continuously been in the country for two years. This policy was a stark departure from the prior policy which only applied to undocumented immigrants who had been “arrested within 100 miles of the border within two weeks of their arrival.”
The expedited removal process has been criticized as a tool to “‘deport people as quickly as possible,'” including those who may have valid claims to remain in the country but never received an opportunity to make their case.
Unsurprisingly, this new policy on expedited removal, as well as other aspects of the Trump administration’s hardline immigration stance, has been incredibly lucrative for government contractors involved in its enforcement. During the Trump administration, air transportation companies received over $587 million in government contracts to provide air transportation and relocation services related to ICE deportations. GEO Group and CoreCivic, private-prison contractors who donated half a million dollars in total to Trump’s inauguration have made billions in government contracts related to the housing of undocumented immigrants.
The Biden administration should not only rescind this expanded policy on expedited removal, but should ensure that all non-violent undocumented immigrants have an opportunity to make their cases before judges with adequate legal representation.
In September 2017, the Trump administration officially moved to rescind the Obama-Era program known as Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA. This program, established in 2012, defers immigration enforcement actions for “certain young people who were brought to this country as children” for a renewable, two-year period.
The Trump administration’s decision was immediately challenged in court by a number of advocacy groups, including CASA de Maryland. In March 2018, a U.S. District Judge ruled against CASA de Maryland, stating the Trump administration had the authority to end the DACA program. In June 2020, the Supreme Court settled the issue by blocking the Trump administration’s efforts to eliminate the DACA program as administration officials, including Attorney General Jeff Session and acting DHS Secretary Elaine Duke, “offered no detailed justifications for canceling DACA.” Despite this decision, in July 2020, the Trump administration told a federal court it had not “’granted nor rejected any applications for the program, effectively putting it “’on hold.’”
DACA recipients and DACA-eligible residents are crucial the national economy, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of DACA-eligible residents work in “essential non-healthcare industries,” including over 160,000 in the restaurant/food service industry and around 23,000 in supermarkets and other grocery stores. DACA-eligible residents also serve a vital role in the healthcare industry, with 24,000 working in hospitals and another 38,000 working in “care centers/services/facilities, physicians’ offices, community housing, and psychiatric & substance abuse hospitals.” According to the right-wing Cato Institute, the repeal of DACA would cost the U.S economy $351 billion in lost income and $92.9 billion in tax revenue from 2019 to 2028.
The Biden administration should work to not only pass legislation codifying these protections under DACA, but strengthen to ensure no individual must fear deportation from the only home they’ve ever known.
In January 2017, the Trump administration released the first part of an executive order banning citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from receiving visas to enter the country. This ban was met with mass protests across the nation, as well as several legal challenges that required a second executive order be signed after it was blocked by a district judge and the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
In March 2017, Trump signed a new executive order that dropped Iraq from the list of banned countries, while also reinstating a temporary ban on all refugees. This ban, just as the first version, was also met with widespread legal challenges, including two appeal court’s affirming district judge decisions blocking the executive order. Ultimately, the Supreme Court allowed the ban to partially go into effect by blocking entry for “foreign nationals who lack any ‘bona fide relationship with any person or entity in the United States.’
In September 2017, the Trump Administration added two non-Muslim majority nations – North Korea and Venezuela – to the banned list. In early 2018, the Supreme court ruled in favor of the Trump administration again, allowing the ban to stay in place. In January 2020, the Trump Administration expanded the travel ban once again to include Nigeria, Eritrea, Myanmar, and Kyrgyzstan.
Trump has continually cited a desire to protect Americans from terrorist attacks conducted by foreign nationals as a rationale for these bans. This claim is based on a racist perception that fails to take into account the true perpetrators of terror attacks within the United States. According to the Center for Strategic & International Studies, right-wing extremists have accounted for “two thirds of the attacks and plots in the United States in 2019 and over 90 percent between January 1 and May 8, 2020.” The Center for Strategic & International Studies also that “right-wing attacks and plots account for the majority of all terrorist incidents in the United States since 1994.”
The Biden administration should immediately rescind this racist Muslim ban through executive order, while working to eradicate right-wing extremism that poses a true threat to American safety.
In April 2018, Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced a policy of separating children from their detained parents. While this policy ostensibly started in 2018, the Trump administration had actually began considering separating immigrant families as early as March 2017.
In June 2018, DHS Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen followed Sessions’ call, stating, “we will not apologize for doing our job,” as the government reported nearly 2,000 child separations from the prior two months, with the administration even setting up at least three “tender age” shelters to “detain babies and other young children.” That same month, following widespread condemnation, President Trump signed an executive order keeping undocumented immigrant families together, despite prior assertions that he had no authority to stop separations.
The Trump administration’s family separation policy was a financial boon for businesses and organizations involved in immigration enforcement, particularly those tasked with holding detained children. The Department of Health and Human Services paid at least $1.2 billion to nonprofit organizations that housed immigrant children. Private-prison contractors GEO Group and CoreCivic received at least $1.9 billion in federal contracts pertaining to immigration enforcement after donating heavily to Trump’s inaugural fund and other Republican committees.
The Biden administration should direct DHS and ICE to immediately cease the separation of families at the border, while also working to reunite the hundreds of children still separated from their parents.